“I do not see what is going to happen to prevent it, but I am certain it might be prevented.”
“You could not rouse her?”
“No, she discounted anything I could have said, by asking me not to say it. That is the worst of Hester. The partition between her mind and that of other people is so thin that she sees what they are thinking about. Thank God, Rachel, that you are not cursed with the artistic temperament! That is why she has never married. She sees too much. I am not a match-maker, but if I had had to take the responsibility, I should have married her at seventeen to Lord Newhaven.”
“You know he asked her?”
“No, I did not know it.”
“It was a long time ago, when first she came out. Lady Susan was anxious for it, and pressed her. I sometimes think if she had been given time, and if her aunt had let her alone—but he married within the year. But what are we to do about Hester? Dr. Brown says something must be done, or she will sink in a decline. I would give my life for her, but I can do nothing. I have tried.”
“So have I,” said the Bishop. “But it has come to this. We have got to trust the one person whom we always show we tacitly distrust by trying to take matters out of His hands. We must trust God. So far we have strained ourselves to keep Hester alive, but she is past our help now. She is in none the worse case for that. We are her two best friends save one. We must leave her to the best Friend of all. God has her in His hand. For the moment the greater love holds her away from the less, like the mother who takes her sick child into her arms, apart from the other children who are playing round her. Hester is in God’s keeping, and that is enough for us. And now take a turn in the garden, Rachel. You are too much in-doors. I am going out on business.”
When Rachel had left him the Bishop opened his despatch-box and took out a letter.
It was directed to Lady Newhaven.
“I promised to give it into her own hand a month after his death, whenever that might happen to be,” he said to himself. “There was some trouble between them. I hope she won’t confide it to me. Anyhow, I must go and get it over. I wish I did not dislike her so much. I shall advise her not to read it till I am gone.”
The mouse fell from
the ceiling, and the cat cried, “Allah!”
That help should come through such a recognized channel as a Bishop could surprise no one, least of all Lady Newhaven, who had had the greatest faith in the clergy all her life, but, nevertheless, so overwhelmed was she by despair and its physical sensations, that she very nearly refused to see the Bishop when he called. Her faith even in lawn sleeves momentarily tottered. Who would show her any good? Poor Lady Newhaven was crushed into a state of prostration so frightful that we must not blame her if she felt that even an Archbishop would have been powerless to help her.